BROOKLYN — A Staten Island garment salesman has confessed to shooting and killing three Brooklyn shopkeepers — and he knew all the victims, police sources said.
Perrone, from Staten Island, was charged with three counts of second degree murder, one for each of the killings, as well as an additional charge of first degree murder, because the three men were murdered under similar circumstances, prosecutors said Wednesday evening.
He was also charged with three counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
Perrone was arraigned early Thursday in Brooklyn Criminal Court before Justice Sharen Hudson. He is due back in court on Nov. 27.
The killings shook the Brooklyn business community after details emerged that the gunman might be targeting Middle Eastern men, which all the victims were. There was also a theory that the victims might be connected through the addresses of their business, which all contained the number 8, though authorities said there was no indication that was the case.
At press conference Wednesday night announcing the charges, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it was "reasonable" to call Perrone a serial killer.
Perrone, dressed all in black, kept his head down and did not respond to reporters' questions as police walked him from the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn into an unmarked police car about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Kelly confirmed that police had found the murder weapon: a .22 caliber sawed-off rifle found in a duffel bag in Perrone's girlfriend's Brooklyn home Wednesday.
The gun, which has a laser light taped to it, is the same caliber as the one used to murder the three men, most recently Vahidipour Rahmatollah, 78, who was shot in his Flatbush boutique last Friday — and ballistics tests revealed that shell-casings fired at each of the crime scenes were shot from the weapon.
Cops also found more ammunition in the recovered duffel bag, as well as a 12-inch kitchen knife with dried blood and two buck folding knifes, each with 7-inch blades.
Kelly said Perrone's girlfriend has not been linked to any of the murders, and there is no evidence that she knew about the killings.
Police sources described Perrone as "delusional" and "a nutcase" but said he gave a methodical accounting of how he killed the three shopkeepers, whom he knew through his work selling clothing in the garment industry.
Kelly wouldn't comment on whether Perrone had received a psychiatric evaluation.
Kelly said Perrone, originally from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, was recognized Tuesday at a pharmacy in Bay Ridge after cops widely circulated a picture of him as a person of interest, and he voluntarily agreed to accompany responding officers to a nearby station house.
The person who spotted Perrone does not want to be identified, Kelly said.
According to Kelly, cops have yet to learn Perrone's motive. But, he said, based on discussions with other shopkeepers, it was "reasonable to assume that he was going to continue doing this."
Kelly said that Perrone "asked questions" to shopkeepers that now seem to indicate he was "very well looking to come back."
Police believe Perrone was casing a fourth shop, another clothing store on Flatbush Avenue, but had not acted because customers came in and interrupted, sources said. The store's owner contacted police after recognizing Perrone's face in an image the NYPD circulated.
Police began looking for a man with a duffel bag after the most recent murder, when a man police called "John Doe Duffel Bag" was spotted on surveillance footage near the crime scene.
Authorities also believe the man appears on footage taken near the killing of Isaac Kadare in his Bensonhurst shop on Aug. 2, though sources said the footage is grainy.
The first killing left Mohamed Galebi dead in his Bay Ridge shop on July 6.
Kelly said authorities have been conducting an exhaustive investigation since the first murder and have received numerous calls from shopkeepers who recognized the surveillance images released to the public.
All three of the victims were reportedly Middle Eastern, but sources said Perrone did not mention their background as a factor in his confession. All of the victims' faces were covered when police discovered them.
Kelly said that police have not ruled out bias as a reason for Perrone's attack.
Yasmin Rahmatollah, the latest victim's daughter, said earlier Wednesday that she was struggling to understand all the information that was coming out about the person who killed her father.
"Whoever it is must be psychotic," she said.
With reporting by Jesse Lent